Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Millennial Opportunities; US-Ethiopia Relationships and the challenges of climate change and regional terrorism.

Global Strategic Enterprises, Inc for Peace and Prosperity- www.globalbelai4u.blogspot.com

Dismissive Ethiopia tests US indulgence
By Barney Jopson

Published: October 10 2007 20:12 | Last updated: October 10 2007 20:12

Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia’s prime minister, sat stiffly at a table as the frontman of the Black Eyed Peas strutted to the tip of the stage with the standard swagger of a Los Angeles hip-hop star.

Below the prime minister’s balcony, several hundred young Ethiopians surged towards the dreadlocked American, who told them: “Y’know, we celebrated the millennium seven years ago.”

Ethiopia did not. The country stuck with a form of the Julian calendar when the west switched to the Gregorian version four centuries ago, so its year 2000 rolled around only last month.

“Is this the real millennium?” the rapper asked, receiving an uproarious “Yes” from the crowd. “So, basically, when I go home, I can tell America to shut up?” he asked. The affirmative answer almost lifted off the roof.

The moustachioed Mr Meles did not flinch. But the exchange – a playful introduction to a song called “Shut Up” – captured something of the US’s increasingly testy relationship with Ethiopia: despite a six-year alliance with Washington, Mr Meles appears not at all inclined to move to America’s music.

Following the attacks of September 11 2001, the administration of President George W. Bush forged an anti-terror pact with Addis Ababa. It was predicated on Ethiopia’s formidable military and intelligence capabilities and its position as a Christian-led country surrounded by Muslim and Arab states.

But the relationship has begun to resemble many of Washington’s alliances with troublesome client regimes, based mostly on geopolitical interest. Ethiopia, which received $283m (£139m, €200m) of military and humanitarian aid from Washington this year, looks increasingly like Pakistan or Egypt: an awkward bedfellow that the US has to support for security goals but one that pursues its own, sometimes brutal, agenda regardless of American pressure.

When the US objects to Ethiopian policies – such as a crackdown on political opponents that killed scores of people in 2005 and a scorched-earth campaign against separatist insurgents this year – it is ignored. When America gives implicit acquiescence – as it did over the Christmas invasion of Somalia and Ethiopia’s bitter border dispute with Eritrea – the US goes through the motions of diplomatic pressure and claims to have been rebuffed.

But the wisdom of the alliance is now under scrutiny, particularly since the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill last week that would force Ethiopia to improve democracy and human rights or risk losing substantial aid.

In public, Jendayi Frazer, the US State department’s top Africa diplomat, remains staunchly pro-Ethiopian and the White House is known to be unhappy with this month’s congressional bill. But one US official says Washington has “titanic arguments” on many subjects with Mr Meles, whose star has fallen since he was hailed in the 1990s as one of a new generation of African leaders. “The Ethiopians are very proud and very independent,” the official adds. “On security, they have supported us strongly, but they also take positions which are not in line with ours.”

In consequence, Washington has become tied to Ethiopia’s local agenda and entangled in a web of mutually reinforcing conflicts, which run from Eritrea to Somalia and cut through Ethiopia’s own ethnically Somali Ogaden region.

The alliance with Ethiopia, the regional powerhouse with a population of 77m, was supposed to achieve the opposite. The US wanted to hunt terrorists, including those suspected of blowing up US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, to monitor links between al-Qaeda and local Islamists and to prevent the region disintegrating into a lawless incubator for extremism.

But the compromises Washington would have to make became evident after a disputed 2005 election, which revealed the Ethiopian regime’s authoritarian leanings. A total of 193 protesters accusing the government of rigging the election were killed in clashes with police. The violence was condemned by the US, which suspended aid temporarily, but Addis Ababa did not flinch.

The US quandary is also illustrated by Ethiopia’s invasion last year of neighbouring Somalia to oust the Islamic Courts Union, a group containing extremist elements that it saw as a threat. The US role in this invasion is still controversial, though American officials deny they encouraged the Ethiopians to act: “We specifically spoke with the government, [advising it] not to go into Somalia, because we didn’t know what the consequences would be,” says the US official.

But European diplomats dispute this account, saying the American attitude was ambiguous and was influenced heavily by those parts of the Bush administration charged with prosecuting the war on terror. The US embassy in Addis Ababa declined to comment on press reports that the US provided intelligence, military targeting and logistical support to Ethiopian forces during the invasion.

US Navy ships have since launched at least three precision air strikes inside Somalia, presumed to be targeting suspected al-Qaeda associates. But the invasion and its aftermath has done nothing to put an end to 16 years of violent chaos in Somalia.

Also going from bad to worse are Ethiopia’s relations with Eritrea. The neighbours fought a war in 1998-2000 that killed 70,000 people. Last month, Ethiopia threatened to terminate the pact that ended it, after years of intransigence over the demarcation of the two countries’ border.

The US failed – or did not try – to persuade Ethiopia to comply with the 2002 ruling of an independent boundary commission. “I think that’s when we let it slip away, when we let Ethiopia break its pledge to agree to the outcome,” says Donald Payne, a Democratic congressman who co-sponsored last week’s Ethiopia bill. “I think we could fight the war on terror and still have respectful policies from our allies if we chose to. However, taking the policy of least resistance may be easier for the Bush administration.”

An embittered Eritrea reacted by launching proxy wars to undermine the Ethiopian government inside the country, where a growing number of armed groups oppose the Meles regime. The most formidable is the Ogaden National Liberation Front, which this year escalated a campaign for self-determination.

Ethiopia responded with a crackdown, which is a source of growing concern to the US. Ethiopian armed forces have been accused of extra-judicial killings, rape, torture and the burning of villages – charges that Ethiopia denies – and a United Nations fact-finding mission to the region said last month it had heard direct accounts of “serious violations of human rights”.

Suspicions have been stoked by the expulsion of the International Committee of the Red Cross from Ogaden and a decision to exclude Médecins Sans Frontières, another aid group. Washington has refused to place the ONLF on its terrorist list or describe the crackdown in Ogaden as counter-terrorism.

This puts it increasingly at odds with Ethiopia. An alliance of convenience is becoming less convenient for both countries by the day.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

“Ethiopia and the State of Democracy: Effects on Human Rights and Humanitarian Conditions in the Ogaden and Somalia”

House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Africa and Global Health Subcommittee Hearing

Rayburn House Office Building 2172 October 2, 2007 10:00 a.m.


Good morning, and thank you, Chairman Payne, Ranking Member Smith and members of the Subcommittee, for the opportunity to discuss with you the current situation in Ethiopia and more broadly in the Horn of Africa sub-region.

Before examining specific questions you may have, I would like to provide some context for that discussion.

U.S. interests in the Horn of Africa are to promote and support regional stability and effective governance, eliminate any platform for al-Qaida or other terrorist operations, respond to humanitarian needs, strengthen democratic institutions, promote respect for human rights, and collaborate with governments to transform their countries by investing in people and creating the conditions for sustained economic growth.

In Ethiopia, U.S. engagement seeks to: support the transition to multi-party democracy; sustain economic growth and reduce poverty; build domestic capacity to respond to humanitarian emergencies; improve access to basic education and health services; and bolster regional stability.

With the added complications of continued instability in Somalia to the south and the unresolved border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea to the north, meeting these objectives represents a considerable challenge.

Our relationship with Ethiopia reflects a history of more than 100 years of bilateral dialogue and exchange.

As a major bilateral donor, we are working with the Government of Ethiopia (GOE) and civil society on the full range of development issues; through this experience, we have gained an appreciation of Ethiopia’s political and socio-economic trajectory.

Just as there are areas of progress, such as HIV/AIDS prevention, there are areas of concern. The United States continues to place a priority on the need for improved human rights and greater political and economic freedoms in our dialogue with the GOE.


The campaign period leading to the May 2005 elections in Ethiopia was the most open and promising in that country's 3,000 year history.

Unfortunately, post-election violence and lengthy detention and trial of opposition members, journalists, and civil society activists cast a shadow over the outcomes of that

As the immediate aftermath of the post-election turmoil fades, we see a cautious, yet motivated host of political actors who are determined to regain and build upon the advances of 2005 to further strengthen the role of democratic institutions, policies, and practices in the national fabric of Ethiopia.

The United States has persistently pressed all sides to remain engaged with legal and constitutional approaches to advance Ethiopia's democracy.

With U.S. encouragement, the ruling and opposition parties ngaged in a dialogue process that resulted in agreements to tackle some of the challenging dilemmas facing Ethiopia's democracy.

These include reform of the National Electoral Board, joint overnment-opposition missions to investigate human rights concerns in Oromiya, revising the media law and parliamentary rules of procedure, and establishing a code of conduct for the press.

These steps are unprecedented in Ethiopia and represent a monumental advancement in the political environment.

Ethiopia's political environment continues to have its vulnerabilities, but we continue to press all parties to remain committed to the process and seek to establish an environment conducive to addressing the broader development challenges
facing the Ethiopian people.

It is critical that we all – as stakeholders in Ethiopia's stability, democracy, and prosperity – encourage all parties to
move forward to regain the advances that we saw in early 2005 and to build upon them for the people of Ethiopia.

The United States has developed a strong partnership with Ethiopia to foster progress in these areas and democracy and human rights issues remain a permanent element in our bilateral dialogue with Ethiopian leaders and civil society. U.S. officials continue to raise these issues at every possible opportunity.

The Department of State recently hosted a group of opposition political leaders and Members of Parliament in Washington, which provided the opportunity for a positive exchange of views on the current state of democracy in Ethiopia.

The opposition leaders reaffirmed their commitment to dialogue as the only viable path to deeper democracy in Ethiopia.

While significant work remains, the GOE has taken steps to improve respect for human rights and democratic practices following the setbacks in 2005.

The government's recent pardon of 71 leaders of the opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) and members of civil society was an important event which significantly enhanced dialogue and reconciliation in Ethiopia.

The ruling party's decision to revise parliamentary rules of procedure to allow for an increased voice for the opposition was also a significant development.

These decisions helped create a positive environment in Ethiopia. U.S. diplomatic and development initiatives, including capacity building efforts in the legislature, judiciary, and executive, are
contributing to these efforts, and we will continue to encourage important reforms.

However, political restrictions, including any harassment of or
impediments blocking elected officials’ access to their constituencies, and restrictions on independent journalists and media outlets remain issues of concern.


In a reflection of the challenges encountered throughout Ethiopia, the conflict in the Ogaden region is complex. In early September, I had the opportunity to visit Gode, a bleak and desolate area of the Ogaden, to see first hand the problems and what more needs to be done to bring relief to this region.

The GOE is facing a genuine security concern in the Ogaden region and has an obligation to respond.

An increasingly violent insurgency is operating from the Ogaden, where Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF), the United Western Somalia Liberation Front (UWSLF), extremists affiliated with the Ogaden faction of al-Ittihad al-Islami (AIAI), and terrorists affiliated with the extremist al Shabaab militia and remnants of
the Somali Council of Islamic Courts (CIC) are stepping up their attacks against government targets.

While this is not a new conflict, in fact it dates back to before the Meles government took office, in the last year the ONLF has become more aggressive and violent.

In April 2007, the ONLF conducted an attack that killed nine Chinese oil workers and 77 Ethiopians, many of whom were civilians.

Regrettably the actions of rebel groups, extremists, and government troops alike have all taken a damaging humanitarian toll on the local civilian population.

The challenge for the GOE and international partners is to mitigate the civilian impacts of these events.

The current situation in the Ogaden reflects the combined result of continued humanitarian crisis and years of conflict driven by a violent insurgency and fighting between government and rebel forces, as well as government restrictions on commercial trade and on mobility of civilians and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), recurrent drought and flooding, and general insecurity.

Ethiopia’s Somali Region, which includes the Ogaden, has a population of approximately 4.5 million people, of which approximately 1.8 million live in five zones (Degehabur, Fik, Gode, Korehe and Warder) with severe humanitarian needs.

Unfortunately, three of these zones – Degehabur, Korahe and Warder – are also where the insurgent activities are the most prevalent.

In May 2007, in response to the increase in ONLF attacks, the Ethiopian military initiated a new counter-insurgency campaign.

The Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) conducted military operations, restricted humanitarian food aid and commercial traffic to certain areas, and restricted movement of rural communities.

The ONLF has also planted landmines throughout roads, impeding large scale movements and disrupting the commercial trade in food and humanitarian assistance.

On July 29, three aid workers were killed when their vehicle struck a landmine, which was placed by the ONLF.

The United States has seen allegations of human rights abuses conducted by all parties, including reports of burned villages and population displacements.

While we cannot confirm these incidents, it is clear that the local population is suffering from the insurgency and counter-insurgency campaigns.

The United States has raised our strong concerns in this regard with the leaders of the GOE, including Prime Minister Meles.

The GOE is working with the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to investigate allegations of human rights abuses in the Ogaden.

The United Nations has also recommended that an independent probe be undertaken into alleged human rights violations in the region.

To address the humanitarian needs of vulnerable populations in the Ogaden region, the United States is working closely with the GOE to open commercial trade routes between the Ogaden and Somalia, which has historically provided approximately 80% of local food,and new routes through Dire Dawa, and to resume distributions of emergency food assistance in the region.

The U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa leads efforts to clarify the scope of the humanitarian situation in the Somali Region, coordinates donor meetings with representatives of the international and NGO communities, and works closely with senior GOE officials to identify and respond to the areas of greatest need.

The United Nations recently conducted an assessment of the Somali region. According to the UN World Food Program (WFP), approximately 600,000 people will require food assistance for the next three months to alleviate current humanitarian needs, address food insecurity, and avoid a humanitarian crisis.

The GOE has responded positively to the UN recommendations and has requested assistance from donor partners to respond to humanitarian needs in the region.

Medical supplies are also in great demand and health care, andv the international community is seeking to respond to the GOE’s request for assistance.

The U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia announced on August 24 that the United States is providing $18.7 million in humanitarian assistance for the Somali region.

The U.S. government provided more than $200 million to support humanitarian programs throughout Ethiopia in fiscal year 2007. U.S. food aid is currently available in Ethiopia and will be distributed over the coming months.

Additionally, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) plans to provide $25 million as an initial contribution in fiscal year 2008. This contribution will be made through WFP in anticipation of greater food needs in January and February, traditionally the most food insecure months in the region.


The situation in the Ogaden is also impacted by conflicts outside of Ethiopia’s borders. Continued instability in Somalia has reduced the level of commercial trade with the Ogaden, exacerbating the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia.

The ONLF also receives support and assistance from the Eritrean
government, and ONLF fighters cross the border into Somalia.

The Eritrean government also provides support and assistance to extremist elements in Somalia, including some with links to al-Qaida’s transnational terror network who are alleged to be supporting the ONLF.

The past war between Eritrea and Ethiopia and unresolved border dispute is negatively affecting Ethiopia, the Ogaden, and the entire Horn region.

The unresolved border dispute between Ethiopia and Eritrea
remains an ongoing threat to regional stability.

Unfortunately, the demarcation process outlined in the Algiers Agreement of December 2000 has come to a standstill.

The result has been President Isaias attempting to overthrow the Meles government by supporting Ethiopian insurgents. The border remains a fault line.

The United States, the other Witnesses to the Algiers Agreement, and other interested actors recently encouraged both parties to agree to resume cooperation with the Eritrea-Ethiopia Border Commission (EEBC).

We are disappointed that no progress was made at the September 6-7 meeting of the EEBC; however, we continue to urge the parties to accept the offer of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to engage with them to help lessen tensions along the border and move toward normalized relations.

The United States also has grave concerns about human rights issues in Eritrea, including democracy, rule of law, freedom of the press, and religious freedoms.

Fourteen years after independence, national elections have yet to be held, and the constitution has never been implemented. Several thousand prisoners of conscience are being detained without charge indefinitely and without the ability to communicate with friends and relatives.

The government has severely restricted civil liberties, and arbitrary arrest, detention (including two Eritrean employees of
the U.S. Embassy detained since 2001), and torture are serious problems. Security forces detain and arrest parents and spouses of individuals who have evaded national service or fled the country, despite the lack of a legal basis for such action.

The situation in Somalia also poses a threat to regional stability. Extremist remnants of the Council of Islamic Courts and the radical al Shabaab militia are seeking to reestablish their influence and capacity both inside Somalia and allegedly attempting
to link with the Ogaden faction of AIAI and the ONLF inside Ethiopia.

Despite these concerns, we have seen some positive developments over recent months, including the deployment of 1,630 Ugandan forces as the lead element of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the positive discussions of the National Reconciliation Congress.

The continued violence in Somalia has taken a terrible toll on the civilian population as all parties to the conflict have failed to safeguard civilians and have targeted institutions such as the press.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has reported that some 400,000 Somalis are internally displaced and living in extremely difficult circumstances with only limited access to shelter, food, and medical care.

The United States has provided more than $89 million in fiscal year 2007 to respond to these and other humanitarian needs driven by the ongoing complex humanitarian emergency in Somalia.

The United States continues to work closely with the African Union and potential troop-contributing countries to support the full and timely deployment of AMISOM, which will help facilitate Ethiopian
withdrawal from Somalia.

The United States supports a process of inclusive dialogue, however long it may last, while responding to the humanitarian needs of the Somali people and encouraging Somali stakeholders
to move towards national elections at the end of the
transitional period in 2009.


The Administration has made Africa a foreign policy priority, and that includes the promotion of conflict resolution, humanitarian assistance, strengthening governance capacity, cooperation with international organizations, and counterterrorism efforts. All of these elements are part of the picture when we consider the Horn of Africa sub-region and Ethiopia in particular.

These and other issues facing us in Ethiopia and throughout the Horn of Africa are complex and not easily resolved. Bottom line: A political solution is needed in the Ogaden that will both end the region’s historic marginalization and restore the commercial trade with Somalia to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

The United States will continue to promote respect for human rights and democratic principles in our dialogue with Ethiopia, while serving as a partner in addressing the humanitarian needs of vulnerable populations and in seeking to resolve longstanding
regional conflicts, and prevent terrorists from establishing a foothold in the Horn and East Africa.

Thank you, and now I would be happy to take your






Testimony before the United States House of Representatives

Committee on Foreign Affairs

Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health

October 2, 2007

By Dr. J. Peter Pham


The Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs

James Madison University

I am honored to have the opportunity to appear once again before the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health and am grateful for the opportunity to add my voice to those who have already spoken on the worrisome developments in the Horn of Africa, especially the Somali Regional State (the so-called “Ogaden” region) of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the territory of the onetime Somali Democratic Republic.

Since, aside from expressing my admiration for the personal courage and leadership of Judge Bertukan Mideksa and Dr. Berhanu Nega, there is little that I can add to what has already been laid before the members of the Subcommittee on the question of democracy in Ethiopia, and since, unlike Ms. Fowsia Abdulkadir, I do not have the benefit of more recent firsthand knowledge of either the current conditions in the ethnic Somali regions of Ethiopia or the disposition of some of the forces in conflict—like many non-Ethiopians, I have not been allowed to venture into those parts of late and has been just over two years since my most recent foray there—I would like to concentrate on the regional context which affects the human rights and humanitarian situation in the Somali Regional State, Somalia, and other parts of the subregion. In fact, I would submit that without an appreciation for the broader dynamics, it is impossible not only to chart a course past the current conflicts to the peace, stability, development, and democracy sought by the peoples of the Horn of Africa, but also to secure the significant national security interests that our own United States of America has in that geopolitically sensitive and significant subregion.

The Ongoing Somali Crisis

The most salient feature of the contemporary geopolitical landscape of the Horn of Africa subregion is the vacuum that has existed in what was, until January 1991, the territory of the Somali Democratic Republic. Apart from the area that was the colonial era British Protectorate of Somaliland—a subject to which I will return later—this area roughly the size of Texas has not had a functional government for over a decade and a half. Just last week, the Mo Ibrahim Foundation’s Index of African Governance, developed by Professor Robert Rotberg at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, rated Somalia as the worst governed among the forty-eight countries of Sub-Saharan Africa. It was partially in response to this chaos that the Islamic Courts movement arose. Unfortunately, within the latter was a not-insignificant number whose members had formerly constituted the nucleus of the Somali Islamic Union (al-Itihaad al-Islamiya), a group established in the 1980s which sought the creation of an expansive “Islamic Republic of Greater Somalia” embracing all ethnic Somalis, and perhaps even all Muslims, in the Horn of Africa. In the early 1990s, amid the collapse of the Somali state, al-Itihaad tried to seize control of strategic assets like seaports and crossroads. Although it temporarily held the northern port of Bosaaso and the eastern ports of Marka and Kismaayo, the only area where it exercised long-term control was the economically vital intersection of Luuq, in southern Somalia, near the Ethiopian border, where it imposed harsh shari’a-based rule from 1991 until 1996. One might add that this was an experience foreign to the Somali tradition of Sunni Islam characterized the jurisprudence of the Shāfi̒ī school (mahdab) which, although conservative, is open to a variety of liberal views regarding practice, and the charisms of the Sufi brotherhoods (tarīqa).

From its base in Luuq, al-Itihaad encouraged subversive activities among ethnic Somalis in eastern Ethiopia, especially among some members of the Ogaden sub-clan of the Darod, some of whom carried out a series of terrorist attacks, including the bombing of two hotels and the 1995 attempted assassination in Addis Ababa of Ethiopia’s then Minister of Transportation and Communications (and later Ambassador to the United Nations), Abdul Majeed Hussein, an ethnic Somali who opposed secessionists. The exasperated Ethiopian government finally intervened in Somalia in August 1996, wiping out al-Itihaad bases in Luuq and Buulo Haawa and killing hundreds of Somali extremists as well as scores of clearly non-Somali Arabs who had flocked to the Horn under the banner of jihad.

After that defeat, al-Itihaad changed tack and, as the longtime scholar of Somali affairs, Professor Iqbal Jhazbhay of the University of South Africa, has noted, “rather than prioritize a strategy of developing an independent military base, decided instead on what could be termed a more ‘hegemonic’ approach whereby it would be working within Somali political and clan structures such as the Islamist Courts.” While the courts were credited with marked improvements in security in many areas of Somalia, they also represented al-Itihaad’s new stealth strategy of achieving an ascendant position in society in general and within the courts movement in particular through its access to external financial resources as well as its superior internal organizational capacity. This predominance would allow it to impose its radical theology and extremist political agenda against the wishes of a majority of Somalis.

Thus the situation faced by the current Ethiopian government last year was one which any Ethiopian government would have found untenable: a movement increasingly dominated by proven enemies—one should not forget that Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys, the chairman of the shura council of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) was previously vice-chairman and military commander of al-Itihaad and before that a colonel under the dictator Muhammad Siyad Barre who was responsible for the “Ogaden War” of 1977-1978—was rapidly taking over a neighboring country. (‘Aweys has long been a significant player in the world of Islamist terrorists, making the cut onto the list of 189 terrorist individuals and organizations specially designated by the U.S. government under Executive Order 13224 in the wake of 9/11.) While one might hope that any alternative to the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi might have managed things better, I suspect that, absent the political will of the international community to allocate resources to resolving the ongoing crisis of Somali statelessness, any prospective Ethiopian government would have had to consider acting preemptively in self-defense.

Unfortunately, the vehicle the Ethiopian government used to legitimize its intervention, the so-called “Transitional Federal Government” (TFG) of Somalia, could not have been more ill-suited for the role scripted for it. As I advised the Subcommittee on African, Global Human Rights, and International Operations last year, the TFG, constituted in 2004 as the fourteenth attempt at an interim Somali authority in as many years, was an unrepresentative group of self-appointed warlords with meager prospects even before they became associated with the Ethiopians. Since its creation at an internationally-funded kaffeeklatsch outside Somalia, the TFG has proven itself to be, at best, a notional entity whose day-to-day physical survival is—aside from generous U.S. and other international aid flows—due entirely to the continuing presence of the Ethiopian intervention force which rescued it last December from certain collapse in the face of an assault by the forces of the ICU, which at the time controlled Mogadishu as well as most of Somalia and were threatening to overrun the provincial outback of Baidoa, the only town which the interim “government” even had the pretense of running. And, if it were not bad enough that the TFG is dominated by fellow members of “President” Abdullahi Yusuf’s Majeerteen sub-clan of the Darod clan from northeastern Puntland—a make-up that renders the would-be regime utterly unpalatable to the powerful Hawiye clan which predominates in Mogadishu—its ham-fisted style—documented in the August 13, 2007, report by Human Rights Watch covering the first four months of the year, as well as independent reporting by a number of journalists and non-governmental organization representatives, including some who have paid with their liberty or even their lives—has driven potential constituents en masse into the arms of its opponents, who are increasingly embracing a broad spectrum ranging from Islamists with foreign ties to alienated members of marginalized clans.

And, as the opposition to it coalesces, rather than examining the reasons for the dissatisfaction—including its failure reach out to leaders of other clans and moderate Islamists as well as its corruption and lack of transparency—the TFG has lashed out against independent voices that should be pillars of any attempt at nation-building, including the members of the press, representatives of non-governmental organizations, and other exponents of civil society. Instead, labeling these groups as “Hawiye terrorists,” it has sidelined them where it has not shut them down and arrested or killed their leadership. Even the TFG’s own chief justice, Yusuf Ali Harun, is not immune from this arbitrary capriciousness as he learned to his sorrow two weeks ago when he was taken from his home in Baidoa by security officials and dragged along with another judge to a Mogadishu prison on orders of “Justice Minister and Attorney-General” Abdullahi Dahir Barre after the pair criticized the regime’s misappropriation of United Nations Development Programme funds for legal reform. (This last maneuver has provoked a crisis in the TFG leadership itself as “Prime Minister” Ali Mohamed Ghedi subsequently sacked the justice minister and his deputy who, in turn, refused to accept their dismissals saying that they were answerable only to “President” Abdullahi Yusuf.)

Thus the abject failure last month of the internationally-financed “national reconciliation congress” packed with cronies of the TFG came as no surprise to those following developments in Mogadishu. Likewise not unexpected is the fact that the TFG, its Ethiopian defenders, and the woefully undermanned African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM)—the last-named consisting of a sole Ugandan contingent, the promised Nigerian, Ghanaian, Burundian, and other units being “no shows” (and, even if the entire authorized force materialized, it remains beyond delusional to think that a modest contingent of 8,000 Africans can succeed where the infinitely more robust UNITAF and UNOSOM II forces, with their 37,000 and 28,000 personnel respectively, failed barely a decade ago)—face a burgeoning armed resistance which, as I noted earlier this year is “repeating almost step-by-step the tactical and strategic evolution of the Iraqi insurgency,” complete with suicide bombings, a tactic unknown in Somalia until last year. Assuming a leading operational role in the insurgency is al-Shabaab (“the Youth”), an extremist group originally led by Adan Hashi ‘Ayro, an al-Qaeda-trained kinsman and protégé of Hassan Dahir ‘Aweys, but which may have splintered since the Ethiopian intervention. (The split may have been exacerbated this past week with a reported rift between ‘Ayro and former ICU defense chief Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siyad, a.k.a. “Indha’adde,” over who should command in Mogadishu.)

It is no wonder that the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported last Friday that nearly 500,000 people, almost one-third of Mogadishu’s population, have fled in recent months as the city has become effectively partitioned between the zone where the TFG’s writ—such as it is—still runs and the areas controlled by opponents of the regime, with the northern part of the city turned into a battlefield while the famed open-air Bakara market in the southern part, one of Africa’s largest, is effectively closed for the first time in living memory (the sprawling bazaar was open for business even through the madness of the 1993 Battle of Mogadishu).

Eritrean Meddling

Irrespective of the motivations for their insurgency, the opponents of the TFG, Islamists and clan loyalists alike, are only able to carry on their fight thanks to outside support, which evidence indicates to being channeled largely through Eritrea even when it does not originate there (much of it is). This is certainly the judgment of the international technical experts of the United Nations Security Council Sanctions Committee Monitoring Group for Somalia, who concluded in June of this year that “huge quantities of arms have been provided to the Shabaab by and through Eritrea” and, noting that they “has observed a clear pattern of involvement by the Government of Eritrea in arms embargo violations,” concluded that “the Government of Eritrea has made deliberate attempts to hide its activities and mislead the international community about its involvement.”

The conduct of the People’s Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ)—formerly the Eritrean People’s Revolutionary Front (EPRF)—regime in Asmara, while unjustified, has a rational basis behind it: the tiny country with a population of under 5 million is locked in a border dispute with its much larger neighbor, Ethiopia, with its 76 million people. Between 1998 and 2000, the two countries fought a conventional war that claimed over 100,000 lives and displaced 1.5 million others over a near-worthless strip of desert around the town of Badme (pre-war population, 1,500). Tensions between the two countries are escalating as the international arbitrators on the Eritrea-Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC), which awarded the ruined town to Eritrea, announced at The Hague last month that they would finalize the border coordinates by November before the panel’s mandate expires, notwithstanding the deadlock between the two countries. (In a letter to his Eritrean counterpart last week, Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin stated that his government was being forced to consider terminating the accord between the two countries to abide by the EEBC’s eventual demarcation given Eritrea’s material breach of the agreement by occupying the demilitarized zone and restricting the United Nations ceasefire monitors.)

Thus Eritrea funnels arms to Somali insurgents attacking Ethiopians in as a way to weaken its foe and potentially open a yet another front in its proxy war against it, a front that might prove invaluable if direct hostilities were to break out along the 912-kilometer armistice lines between the two countries. As I noted in May to a joint hearing of this Subcommittee and the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight, the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) and the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) have received support from the single-party PFDJ regime for their activities within Ethiopia for at least a decade. More recently, Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki has also spread his largesse to other opponents of his nemesis, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, including the Afar National Democratic Front (ANDF), the Ethiopian People’s Patriotic Front (EPPF), the Gambella People’s Liberation Force (GPLF), the Southern Ethiopia Peoples’ Front for Justice and Equality (SEFJE), and the Tigray People’s Democratic Movement (TPDM)—all of which have staged high profile attacks on Ethiopian government forces or installations in recent months.

However, presently it is in Somalia where the Eritrean regime’s destabilizing influence is most exercised and the reason that the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs announced two months ago that a dossier was being assembled with a view toward formally designating the country a “state sponsor of terrorism.” Last month Asmara hosted to a “Congress for Somali Liberation and Reconciliation” which led to the formation of a new umbrella group calling itself the “Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia” (ALS). It should be noted that not all the members of the Somali opposition alliance are Islamists, much less Islamist terrorists, although it appears that militant Islamists form the core of the movement. In addition to hard line Islamist ideologues like ‘Aweys, the ALS includes clan chieftains like Husayn Mohamed Farah, a.k.a. “Aydiid Jr.,” a onetime U.S. Marine who is the son of General Mohamed Farah Aydiid of Black Hawk Down infamy; political opponents of the TFG like its deposed parliamentary speaker Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan; as well as more moderate Islamists like Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad, who was chairman of the ICU during its rule in Mogadishu and who was named executive head of the ALS. On the one hand, this disparate group seems to have little in common other a desire to drive the TFG from Mogadishu: one indication of its ramshackle nature was that the congress’s conclusion, it elected no fewer than 191 members to the “central council” to be chaired by former TFG speaker Sharif Adan. On the other hand, there is also the possibility that we are witnessing the birth of a pan-Somali alliance consisting of elements from throughout the Horn with the potential for destabilizing the region.[1]

The real problem is that the conflict the Eritrean-backed ALS will foment in Somalia also creates an ideal operating space in for Islamist terrorists like ‘Ayro and Fazul Abdullah Muhammad, a long-time member of al-Qaeda in East Africa who figures on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list with a $5 million bounty on his head for his role in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya; as well as Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki, an al-Itihaad veteran who is reputed to lead al-Qaeda’s East Africa cell; Mukhtar Robow, a.k.a. Abu Mansur, the former deputy defense minister of the ICU who fought with the Taliban in Afghanistan; Issa Osman Issa, another al-Qaeda member wanted for his role in the East Africa embassy bombings; Ahmad Abdi Godane, an al-Shabaab leader trained by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan wanted for his role in the murders of Western aid workers in the Republic of Somaliland; and Ibrahim Haji Jama, a.k.a. “al-Afghani,” another al-Shabaab leader who trained with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and is a veteran of terrorist campaigns there as well as in Kashmir and in Somaliland. While the Ethiopian intervention last year disrupted al-Qaeda’s effort to establish a base of operations in Somalia, renewed conflict could give the terrorists another go-around.

(When it is not stirring up trouble abroad, the Eritrean regime is busies itself maintaining an ironclad grip on its citizens at home. According to Freedom House’s Freedom in the World 2007 country report, Eritrea is “not free,” scoring an abysmal 7 on political freedom and 6 on civil liberties—the scale is 1 to 7, with 1 corresponding to the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom. For all its problems, neighboring Ethiopia is at least “partly free” and scoring 5 on both indices. Arbitrary detentions, torture, and political arrests are common. Non-governmental organizations are severely restricted and some categories of civil society organizations, like international human rights groups, are prohibited altogether; the last three international development NGOs working in Eritrea were expelled in 2006, a year after the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was kicked out.

Eritrea also enjoys the dubious distinction of being one of only eight nations singled out for designation by the U.S. State Department as “countries of particular concern” with respect to international religious freedom (the others are Burma, the People’s Republic of China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Uzbekistan). Since 2002, the PFDJ regime has banned all religious denominations except for Islam, the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, the Roman Catholic Church, and the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church of Eritrea. Members of other faiths are forbidden to worship in the country, even in private homes. However, being a “legal” denomination is no guarantee of religious liberty: in 2006, the regime deposed and arrested the octogenarian Patriarch of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Abune Antonios, who had been critical of its interference in internal church matters. The patriarch has not been seen since, although Eritrea’s ambassador in Belgium recently claimed, preposterously, that he had retired to an isolated monastery. Despite the denunciation of the ecclesiastical coup d’état by Coptic Pope Shenouda III, head of the mother church of Alexandria who had consecrated and installed Abune Antonios only three years ago, President Isaias used the feast of Pentecost this year to install on the patriarchal throne a more pliant prelate, Dioskoros.)

The Ogaden Conflict

Thus the conflict in Ethiopia’s Somali Regional State does not occur in a vacuum, but rather takes place within a dynamic regional context. Whether its newfound operational sophistication is directly attributable to Eritrean or other external inputs or not—and irrespective of historical or other justifications which might be advanced for its activities and which are beyond the scope our inquiry this morning—it is a fact that the ONLF has managed to escalate the long-simmering conflict in the last six months. It is my conclusion and that of other analysts that at least 2,000 ethnic Somali fighters, trained and armed in Eritrea to fight alongside the Islamic Courts Union forces last year and documented by the UN Monitoring Group at the time, subsequently entered the Ethiopia after the Islamists were routed at the beginning of this year and linked up with the ONLF forces already operating there.

With respect to the ONLF, it should be noted that it does not necessarily represent all ethnic Somalis in the region which is sometimes incorrectly known as “the Ogaden.” The nature and extent of the group’s base is difficult to determine and subject to no little dispute. What is certain is that there are ethnic Somali sub-clans in the region whose members the ONLF clearly does not represent as well as sub-clans, particularly among Ogadeni lineages, which have considerably closer ties with the eponymous group. The fact is that the total population figures for the geographical area in question are highly contested, much less the breakdown of any aggregate figures into non-Somalis and ethnic Somalis and, among the latter, non-Ogadeni lineages and Ogadeni lineages—and then, among the last-mentioned, those for whom the ONLF speaks and those who reject its claims to being their political representative. (To cite one example, the members of the Somali-Ethiopian Peace and Development Agency (SEPDA), which pursues “the attainment of peace, economic development, promotion of democracy and respect for human rights in the Somali Region of Ethiopia,” are Ogadenis who pledge to “not let the ONLF obliterate the future of our people.”)

In any event, on April 24, the ONLF’s “Dufaan” unit launched a massive attack on an oilfield in Abole (also known in Somali as “Obala”), about 120 kilometers from Jijiga, the capital of the Somali Regional State. The oilfield was being worked by Chinese firm, the Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau (ZPEB), on behalf of South West Energy, a Hong Kong-based company with a license to explore for oil in a 21,000-square kilometer basin in Ogaden. ZPEB was undertaking the same sort of seismic surveys that it has done throughout Ethiopia for a number of prospecting oil companies since 2003. During the fifty-minute firefight that broke out between the ONLF fighters and Ethiopian soldiers guarding the oil workers when the attackers opened up on the workers’ camp, nine Chinese and sixty-five Ethiopian guards were killed.[2] Seven other Chinese workers were kidnapped before the ONLF force withdrew. The prisoners were subsequently turned over to representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross after the government of the People’s Republic of China reacted strongly against what it called an “atrocious” attack and immediately dispatched a delegation to Addis Ababa (military analysts have not been slow note that the official communiqué from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing mentioned the “delegation” undertaking “rescue efforts,” rather than “negotiations to secure release”).

It should be acknowledged that ONLF had long been on the record as opposing the oil concession and other international development projects in the region that were based on accords with the Ethiopian government. Also, this ZPEB facility—not unlike all-too-many Chinese natural resource extraction enterprises in Africa—was apparently characterized by abusive labor conditions which, no doubt, accounted for local antipathy that translated into tacit, if not active, assistance for the attackers.

In response, the Ethiopian government has undertaken major counterinsurgency operations in the region and imposed, since May of this year, a trade blockade which exacerbated the humanitarian situation of the region’s population which, given their pastoralist economy, is particularly vulnerable. According to participants at a recent seminar convened at Chatham House, the cumulative impact of commodity food prices doubling and livestock prices halving is the effective price of basic staples has increased 400 percent in recent months. There are allegations, denied by the Ethiopian government, that having created food dependency through the blockade, it is now selectively lifting it in a manner which favors certain interests to the detriment of others. (Similar accusations, likewise denied, are leveled against the ONLF for likewise abusing food aid and not respecting the neutrality of international intergovernmental and nongovernmental relief organizations.) There have been reports

The truth in the so-called “Ogaden” region is hard to come by. In July, the International Committee of the Red Cross was accused of aiding the rebels and expelled. A number of NGOs, including the Dutch branch of Médecins Sans Frontières, have reported difficulties with access. Even the United States, despite our close security partnership with Ethiopia, has been effectively excluded from the area: the “hearts and minds” humanitarian initiatives of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) have not been able to undertake any projects in the region for over a year. Thus even our information on actual circumstances on the ground is very limited and almost any assertion concerning the region, including basic data like population, is subject to contestation. With all due respect to my esteemed fellow witness, it should be noted that within the Ogadeni diaspora the line between civilian non-governmental organizations and political-military actors is a very fine one that is often very difficult to distinguish.[3]

The irony of this is that, at least on paper, all the elements necessary for composing the political differences in the conflict are already present. The 1994 Constitution of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a remarkably progressive document. Unfortunately, as my colleagues on the panel have testified, its observance has left a great deal to be desired. Responsibility for this impasse lies not only with the government in Addis Ababa and the ONLF, but also with external forces with a stake in prolonging the conflict, including the Eritrean regime and the Somali Islamists.

U.S. Security Concerns

The most significant national interest at stake for the United States in this complex context is to prevent al-Qaeda (or another like-minded international terrorist network) from acquiring a new base and opening a new front in its war against us and our allies. This is certainly the danger posed by Eritrea’s dangerous sponsorship of anti-Ethiopian forces which include elements clearly linked to al-Qaeda and other jihadist movements.

In the long term, our objective of a stable and secure Horn of Africa is best achieved if the countries of the subregion and their peoples are secure within their boundaries and without, benefiting from the rule of law, governed by leaders accountable to their electorates, and enjoying the prospects of development. However, if we are to have any hope of getting there from where we are today, have to be careful to avoid the path of expedience: far from being our friend, our enemy’s enemy may not necessarily share our intermediate, much less long-term, interests.

This being said, we also do not have complete freedom of choice in our partners either. The fact is that Ethiopia is one of the most important African partners in America’s counterterrorism efforts. The country has benefited from the capacity-building East Africa Counterterrorism Initiative (EACTI). The Terrorist Interdiction Program (TIP), which is designed to identify terrorists and hinder their movement across borders, is operative in Ethiopian airports. All this is more than can be said for other countries in the Horn of Africa. This partnership stands as another milestone in the long history of security cooperation between our two countries. During the first half of the Cold War, Ethiopia was not only a critical linchpin in America’s anti-Soviet containment regime along the southern tier of the Middle East—the Kagnew communications facility, for example, was highly valued by the U.S. military as part of its global radio system—but an Ethiopian contingent fought alongside U.S. forces in the Korean War (the unit, dubbed the “Kagnew Battalion,” was attached to the 7th Infantry Division and fought in a number of engagements, including the famous two battles at “Pork Chop Hill”). However, old friends, if they have any maturity, should be secure enough in their relationship to also be frank with one another.

While respecting Ethiopia’s proud history of independence, we have to encourage all stakeholders, especially the country’s government, to make progress on social, economic, and political issues. Neither we nor our partners can afford to pursue short-term objectives in a manner which creates a facilitating environment for extremism and ultimately, terrorism. As the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States of America rightly acknowledged: “Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.”

Furthermore, despite Eritrea’s frustrating role as the regional spoiler, a renewed conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea benefits no one except the Chinese arms merchants who have sold an estimated $1 billion in arms to the two sides and the terrorist forces which will exploit the ensuing chaos to their own advantage. We have to exert every effort to prevent war from breaking out, not only because of the incalculable humanitarian toll that the fight would exact on the peoples of the Horn, but of the severe damage to our security interests that it would entail.

The Somaliland Exception

I would be remiss if I did not avail myself of this opportunity to raise the question of the remarkable reemergence of the Republic of Somaliland amid the ruin of Somalia and multiple conflicts wracking the Horn of Africa. With the collapse of the Somali state, the Somalilanders reasserted their independence and created a functional government, complete with all the accoutrements of modern statehood save, alas, international recognition.

While a full discussion of the case of Somaliland is beyond the scope of the present hearing, neither is it divorced from it. Surely if America’s national commitment to support and strengthen democracy as a bulwark against extremist ideologies and terrorist violence has any real-world application, it is certainly the case here. The point I made at last year’s hearing on the expanding crisis in the Horn of Africa is even truer today: “The people of Somaliland have made their choice for political independence and democratic progress. While they have stumbled occasionally along the way, their efforts deserve encouragement through the appropriate economic, political, and security cooperation—which, in turn, will anchor Somaliland within America's orbit as well as international society.” I would only add that such small steps would also show the countries and peoples of the subregion our resolve to reward progress as well as give the lie to those argue that our anti-terrorism and pro-democracy objectives are not subterfuges for an anti-Muslim agenda (Somaliland’s population is almost exclusively Sunni Muslims and the shahādah, the Muslim profession of the oneness of God and the acceptance of Muhammad as God’s final prophet in emblazoned on its flag). It would also secure the one part of the onetime Somali Democratic Republic that has managed, at considerable cost, to keep itself aloof from maelstrom increasingly spinning out of control (just two weeks ago, armed forces from the Somali region of Puntland opened fire on Somaliland security forces northwest of Las Anod in the Sool district).


I hope that I have been able to sketch out some of the regional dimensions of influencing the human rights and humanitarian conditions in the Somali-inhabited regions of Ethiopia, Somalia proper, and the Horn of Africa in general. The crisis begins in the former Somalia, but it presents challenges and opportunities to the countries and peoples of the entire subregion as well as to the international community, and, ultimately of greatest concern to us as Americans, to the United States. Human rights and democracy cannot be promoted in this geopolitically critical area if the lack security and stability presents governments with all-too-tempting or convenient pretenses to abridge them. On the other hand, without improving the social, economic, and political environment that allows terrorists, local or international, to operate in the area and manipulate long-suffering indigenous populations for their own radical ends, all the security resources in the world are for naught. To this end, permit me to offer several recommendations:

(1) If, as I noted at the beginning, “most salient feature of the contemporary geopolitical landscape of the Horn of Africa” is the ongoing statelessness and chaos in the territory of the former Somali Democratic Republic, with their accompanying human rights and humanitarian costs as well as the potential for terrorist penetration and the spread of conflict throughout the region, then the international community must devote the attention and resources necessary to help the people of Somalia rebuild a stable political base. This means encouraging within Somali society inclusive dialogue of all stakeholders willing to renounce violent recourse. It also means making recognition of the TFG—the only coin it really has—conditional on the would-be interim regime meeting clear benchmarks, including respecting the rights of its prospective citizens and actually proving itself an effective government, rather than simply according it legitimacy. After all, thirteen transitional arrangements have come and gone. Pulling the plug on the life support of another one that fails to live up to its promise should not prove particularly difficult.

(2) The United States Government should make clear that it remains committed to the international accords governing relations between states in this geostrategically vital subregion, including the Algiers Agreement on the demarcation of the Eritrea-Ethiopia border, as the basis for security and stability in the Horn of Africa. Of course, support needs to be concrete, including real resources for the demobilization and reintegration of forces as well as the restoration of traditional regional trade patterns and the development of new opportunities for economic integration.

(3) We should likewise make clear that America will not look kindly on any escalation of conflict, whether through direct military action or indirectly through state sponsorship of or activities carried out by organizations and individuals—whatever their name and irrespective of their grievance—that gives terrorists a greater opening into the region. We ought to encourage peaceful competition through electoral processes and, where absolutely necessary, even support nonviolent resistance; we should never reward armed violence, especially by non-state actors.

(4) We should make our non-humanitarian aid to all parties in the region—those with whom we currently have partnerships as well those with whom we may enter into relations at some future point—conditional on their receptivity to the range of concerns that the United States has, including counterterrorism and security cooperation, respect for fundamental human rights, effective governance, and commitment to progress on democratization at home and peacebuilding abroad. Respect for the sovereignty of countries with which we interact requires neither our abandoning America’s legitimate security interests nor prohibits us from maintaining the standards by which we have traditionally judge those who would be our friends.

(5) To these ends, the United States should be neither shy nor stingy with our assistance to promote human security writ large, including economic development and the rule of law. This will require not only that we engage the widest possible spectrum of individuals, groups, and, yes, de facto polities like the Republic of Somaliland, which share our objectives, but that we encourage our international partner states and institutions to do so likewise. (With all due respect, I make no apologies for constantly returning to this theme: it is to me incomprehensible that we continue to express concern about the state of democracy in the Horn of Africa while but ignoring a New York-sized region that has held internationally-monitored elections for the presidency as well as national and local legislatures. Talk of mixed signals!)

I look forward to your questions and observations. And I renew my thanks to you and the Members of the Subcommittee for the honor to come before you again today, especially alongside the members of this distinguished panel you have assembled.

* * * * *


Partial List of Ogadeni Civilians Killed in Recent Operations

by the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF)

April 24, 2007: In addition to the Chinese oil workers and their Ethiopian guards, thirty civilians were killed in the attack on Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau oilfield:

1. Mahad Ciise Aar

2. Mohamed Nuur Nabad-diid

3. Ahmed Mahdi Cabdi

4. Mohamed Muhumed

5. Mohamed C/laahi Faarax

6. Nuur Cumar Xirsi

7. Fadxi Dayib Muxed

8. Asad Cabdi Raasin

9. C/raxmaan Abiib Ibraahin

10. Mohamed M Gaas Dimuqradi

11. Mohamed Ahmed Nuur

12. Xasan Jaamac Cabdi

13. Mowliid Mux’ed Aadan

14. Mowliid Kayd Muuse

15. Iid Muhumed Nuux

16. Dawlad Carabeey Ahmed

17. Ina Aadan Muhumed

18. C/laahi Cumar Hul-hul

19. Cagewayne Muhumed Ahmed

20. Ahmed Cabdi Xuseen

21. Ahmed Xasan Madoobe

22. Ahmed Dhagoole Yuusuf

23. Jamaal Siyaad Furunle

24. Xabiib Mohamoud

25. Xasan Cumar Shiifoow

26. Cabdi Mohamed Ciise

27. Macalin Xasan Sh. Mohamed

28. C/rashiid Qabri-Dahar

29. Mohamed Yuusuf

30. Ina Gaacuur Cali

May 28, 2007: An ONLF grenade attack on a cultural gathering in Jijiga killed four middle school students:

1. Ahmed Mohamed Aftaag

2. Abdiwali Mohamed Tuluh

3. Ahmed Mohamoud Bucul

4. Leyla Sharif Hassan

May 28, 2007: In a separate attack, fifty civilians were injured, including the regional president Abdullahi Hassan, and three artists were killed:

1. Abdi Kaamil Awale

2. Aw-Ganbad

3. Kalid Nur

July 1, 2007: An attack on the town of Dobaweyn in Korahey region left ten civilians dead, including two schoolteachers and a pregnant woman:

1. Muhumed Abdi Dol

2. Sigale Usman

3. Dilif Mahamoud Usman

4. Abdirahman Allele

5. Aydid Gallery

6. Abdulahi Abdisamad

7. Mohamed Guled (Gamacur)

8. Dubad Barkab

9. Kabe Umar Un-un

10. A young daughter of Sheikh Isman

September 20, 2007: An attack on the town of Shilabo left five civilians dead:

1. Duulane Guuleed Carab
2. Aadan Mohamed Cashuur
3. Kaamil Kaydsane Iishaar
4. Saynab Ali Gurxan
5. Duulane Ali Xagaa

September 21, 2007: An ONLF-planted landmine near Aware in Dagahbour region exploded, killing three civilians traveling in automobile:

1. Dayib Abaade

2. Guled Abdi Dheeg

3. Anab Hirsi-Jini

September 25, 2007: An attack on another vehicle near El-Har, just outside of Kebridahare, destroyed the vehicle, killing two civilians:

1. Dhadoon Abdullahi Nur

2. Mohmaed Mohamoud Dahir

September 27, 2007: An ONLF unit attacked district of Lahelow nearby the Ethiopia-Somalia border, targeting members of the Isma’il Gum’adle sub-clan, twelve of whom were slain:

1. Jamaal Garaad Haashi
2. Gooni Gaydh Muhamed Ereg
3. Ali Nuur Mohamed
4. Ahmed Atoobe
5. Faarah Sahardiid Gabay
6. Aadan Abdulaahi Diiriye
7. Faarah Qawdhan Aadan Cade
8. Carab Istabool Biihi (Guuleed Hagoog)
9. Nadiir Ahmed Hirsi
10. Awaale Ali Guray
11. Abdirahman Carab Maxamed Guure
12. Abdinuur Goofadhe Gasay

* * * * *

Exhibit 1

Leaders of the “Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia” Meeting in Eritrea (June 2007)

(From left to right) Suleiman Roble, organizer of the “Congress for Somali Liberation and Reconciliation” in Asmara, Eritrea; Admiral Mohamed O. Osman, chairman of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF); and Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan, former Transitional Federal Government of Somalia parliamentary speaker and chairman of the Central Council of the “Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia” (ALS).

* * * * *

Exhibit 2

Ogadeni Leaders Meeting in Finland (August 2007)

(From left to right) General Abdullahi Mukhtar, a member of the Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) Central Committee; Sheikh Abdalla Ibrahim, onetime leader of the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF), a predecessor and ally of the ONLF; Sadiq Abdirahman of the Ogaden Human Rights Committee (U.S.A.); and ONLF chairman Admiral Mohamed O. Osman.


[1] See the image (Exhibit 1) of ONLF leader Admiral Mohamed O. Osman (Ethiopia) meeting with former TFG parliamentary speaker and current ALS central council chair Sharif Hassan Sheikh Adan (Somalia) and the Eritrea-based Somali militant Suleiman Roble.

[2] In addition, thirty local Somali Ethiopian civilians lost their lives. While human rights violations attributable to the Ethiopian government have been widely disseminated, those for which the Ogaden National Liberation Front is responsible are less reported. To balance the record, a partial list of civilians killed in ONLF actions is appended to this statement. (The civilians whose names are listed all hail from Ogadeni lineages.)

[3] See the image (Exhibit 2) of Sadiq Abdirahman of the Ogaden Human Rights Committee (U.S.A.) with ONLF chairman Admiral Mohamed O. Osman; Sheikh Abdalla Ibrahim, onetime leader of the Western Somali Liberation Front (WSLF), a predecessor and ally of the ONLF; and General Abdullahi Mukhtar, a member of the ONLF Central Committee.

Bertukan Mideksa's statement at the U.S. Congress
Oct 03, 2007

Bertukan Mideksa at the U.S. Congress
[photo: Abraham Takele/ER]Statement delivered by Kinijit Vice President Bertukan Mideksa at a hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health

October 2, 2007


Chairman Payne, Distinguished Members of the House Africa Subcommittee, and Committee Staff:

It is a distinct honor and privilege for me to be invited to address you here today on the subject of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Ethiopia.

When I sat in prison for nearly 20 months, until my release in late July, 2007, with many other colleagues accused of unspeakable political crimes, I had no idea that I would be invited to appear in the halls of the Congress of the United States and share my views with American lawmakers. Thank you Mr. Chairman for opening the doors to this great House of the American people, and for inviting me and my colleague, Dr. Berhanu Nega, Mayor-elect of Addis Ababa, to participate in these proceedings.

Mr. Chairman: I want to take this special opportunity to thank you and this subcommittee for standing with me and my fellow political prisoners in our darkest hours in Kality prison. We remember vividly, Mr. Chairman, when you traveled all the way to visit us in Kality prison in 2006. Your words comforted us then, as they did throughout our imprisonment when you called unrelentingly for our immediate and unconditional release. I thank you very much!

Mr. Chairman: You and this distinguished Committee have defended and promoted democracy, freedom and human rights in Ethiopia since the last parliamentary elections in May, 2005.

Your recent actions in the consideration of H.R 2003 have demonstrated to the American and Ethiopian people, and indeed the world, that democracy and human rights are of paramount importance in the relations between our two countries. I thank you all deeply for your efforts to promote and sustain democracy, freedom and accountability in Ethiopia.

Mr. Chairman: I am currently Vice Chairperson of the Coalition for Unity and Democracy Party (CUDP) in Ethiopia. Prior to my election to this position, I served as a Judge on the Federal First Instance Court. I served in that capacity for about seven years, before I resigned. I spent nearly 20 months in prison on various alleged state crimes and was released with 38 of my colleagues on July 20, 2007.

Mr. Chairman: In my opening statement, I will briefly summarize my testimony. I respectfully request the Chairman to include my prepared statement in the official record of these proceedings.

In my testimony today, I would like to provide the Committee with a brief overview of the state of democracy in Ethiopia since the May, 2005 parliamentary elections and outline some ideas that could be helpful in the establishment of democracy and protection of human rights.

The Pre-Election Period in Ethiopia, 2005

To understand the current situation and meaningfully discuss future course of actions it is necessary to consider the birth of democracy in Ethiopia in 2005. As you know very well, the period immediately preceding the May, 2005 elections was an extraordinary time in Ethiopia’s history[1]. For the first time in our history, the seeds of democracy were planted throughout our land, and a time of great hope and expectation for ordinary citizens.

The preparations for the 2005 parliamentary elections were unprecedented in the country’s history. For the first time, genuine political competition by the various political parties in the electoral process was allowed. There was fair access to publicly-controlled media outlets, and the level of public participation and political debate on radio and television between opposition and government leaders and supporters provided a solid background for an open and genuine exchange of views on the important issues affecting Ethiopian society.

Public interest and participation in the electoral process was massive. The European Union Observer team estimated voter registration at no less than 85% of all eligible population, based on voter lists containing 25,605,851 names of registered persons in 2005. The total number of candidates for the House of Peoples’ Representatives was 1,847. a total of 3,762 candidates ran for Regional Councils. The total number of women candidates to the House of Peoples’ Representatives was 253, and 700 in the Regional Councils.

The pre-election process while much more open than any past election it fell short of accepted norms of free and fair election. To its credit the government allowed limited media access, established a Joint Political Party Forum at national and constituency levels, regular consultations with electoral authorities to resolve problems in campaign and election administration, special elections-related training programs for the police and the judiciary, pledges of non-violence between the ruling and opposition parties for election day and invitation of international election observers by the Government of Ethiopia, among others.

As election day approached the government started to use its power to influence the outcome of the election, The problems in the pre-election period also included administrative and bureaucratic problems, wide spread interference by local authorities in the conduct of public gatherings and opposition party rallies, threats and intimidations by some local public officials.

In some instances, force was used to disrupt public gatherings and detain opposition supporters throughout the country. There was concern among opposition leaders that the national elections board lacked independence and impartiality because of the dominance of the ruling party in the operation and administration of that board. In the days preceding the elections, there was a spike in negative campaigns on radio and television using images and messages designed to intimidate by associating the genocide in Rwanda with opposition politics.

Polling Day, May 15, 2005

As documented by various international organizations, there was a very high voter turnout on May 15, 2007, election day. There were international elections observers as well as political party observers who attended the polling stations to ensure the integrity of the outcome of the elections.

Election day was not entirely without its problems. There were significant instances of expulsion and harassment of poll workers and inadequate supply of polling materials. However, the incidents of intimidation, multiple voting, ballot stuffing, and disregard for secret vote was limited.

Post Election Period

The early elections results showed considerable gains for opposition candidates. Opposition parliamentary and municipal candidates swept the seats in the capital, Addis Ababa. Opposition candidates had posted substantial gains in most of the reporting constituencies, and all objective indications were that the winning margins for opposition candidates would expand as more reports came in.

Even though the Board was required to announce the official results on June 8, that requirement was superseded when Prime Minister Meles Zenawi declared a state of emergency, outlawed any public gathering, assumed direct command of the security forces, and replaced the capital city police with federal police and special forces drawn from elite army units were deployed.

The Elections Board simultaneously ordered the vote tallying process to stop, and on May 27, the Board released its determination that the ruling party, the Ethiopian Peoples Revolutionary Democratic Front had won 209 seats, and affiliated parties 12 more. The report indicated the opposition parties had won 142 seats. Our party filed complaints in 139 constituencies, the UEDF lodged 89 complaints, while the EPRDF raised concerns over irregularities in more than 50 seats.

The ruling party, faced with the prospect of being swept out of office, and before the votes were fully counted, announced on May 16 that it had won more than 300 seats. It conceded that opposition parties had won the capital, but claimed victory in the national parliamentary elections.

Our party, the CUD and the United Ethiopian Democratic Forces, claimed that we had won 185 of the approximately 200 seats for which the National Elections Board had released preliminary results.

By early June, 2005, it was unofficially reported that the ruling party had won the parliamentary elections. This led to spontaneous public protests and demonstrations throughout the country alleging election fraud. Throughout June and subsequent months, such protests continued.

The government undertook a program of massive arrests and incarceration of protesters and political opponents. In an attempt to suppress protests, hundred of demonstrators were shot and killed or severely wounded. Our party strongly protested the use of deadly force against unarmed protesters.

Report of the Official Inquiry Commission

On October 18, 2006, the report of a 10-member public inquiry into election-related unrests was released to the Associated Press. The Commission concluded that a total of 193 people were killed and 763 were injured, a number much higher than that was reported by the Ethiopian government. The vice chairman of the Commission, Judge Wolde-Michael Meshesha, told AP that “this was a massacre … these demonstrators were unarmed yet the majority died from shots to the head.” He added that the government attempted to pressure and intimidate members of the inquiry after learning about its controversial finding.

As you will recall, both the Chairman and Vice Chairman of the Commission have briefed this Congress in November, 2006.[2] The chief of the European Union Election Observer Team, Ana Gomes, commenting on the Commission’s report stated that the report “only confirms what we have said in our report on the elections,” and “that indeed there were massive human rights violations.”

Post Election Efforts by the CUDP to Create National Political Reconciliation

In light of the unstable political situation in the country following the May, 2005 elections, the CUDP made 8 specific proposals to the government as conditions for it to join parliament.

These proposals addressed a number of critical institutional and rights issues, including: restructuring of the Election Board to insure its independent and impartial operation, equal accessability of public media to all political parties, institutional independence for the judiciary and non-interference in judicial matters by political authorities, establishment of an investigative committee to look into killings of unarmed protesters by government security forces, de-politicization and professionalization of the police and armed forces, recission of recently introduced parliamentary procedures that limit the participation of opposition parliamentarians and governance of the City of Addis Ababa, release of all political prisoners and reopening of opposition party offices and establishment of an independent commission, that is acceptable to all parties, to follow up on the various proposals.

Government’s Response to CUDP Proposals

In November 1, 2005, the government responded to the CUDP proposals by arresting, jailing and charging numerous opposition party leaders including myself, human rights advocates, journalists and civic society leaders for various state crimes. For nearly, 20 months these leaders were jailed in Kality prison while their case was being heard. The international press characterized the court as “Kangaroo Court”.

Our Release

As you well know, there were numerous attempts by various groups to secure our release from prison. Discussions with a group of elders to find a common ground between the government and the imprisoned CUDP leaders for negotiation on the future of democracy in our country did not bear fruit because of the belligerence of the government and the ruling party.

While in prison and throughout these discussions with the elders, CUDP leaders showed their unflinching commitment to finding a peaceful and negotiated settlement to the political crisis in our country. All our calls for peaceful dialogue have, unfortunately, fallen on deaf ears.

Even the most basic agreement we reached with the elders to secure our release was nullified and used by the government for mind numbing propaganda to isolate CUDP from the public and to instill fear in the public so that it will refrain from supporting the party. In so doing, the government once again showed its total preoccupation in gaining temporary political advantage rather than look at the long term interest of peace, democracy and national reconciliation. Our release after 21 months, unfortunately, failed to bring us any closer to a more serious dialogue for national reconciliation.

Restoring Democracy in Ethiopia

Mr. Chairman: Democracy can and must be restored in Ethiopia.

In 2005, we expected the results of the national parliamentary elections as strong foundation for building a temple of democracy in Ethiopia. Our hopes were dashed, and we found ourselves trapped in a burning house of tyranny.

There is no democracy in Ethiopia today, despite empty claims of “recent bold democratic initiatives taken by our government, the immense progress in creating a competitive, pluralistic system of government and a more open civil society.” The fact of the matter is that there is neither pluralism nor commitment to democratic principles and practices in Ethiopia.

The government’s claim of political pluralism has not gone beyond the stage of political sloganeering. If pluralism involves widespread participation and a greater feeling of commitment from society members, it does not exist today in Ethiopia. If pluralism means increased and diverse particiaption in the political deicsion making process and give everyone a stake in the outcome, it does not exist in Ethiopia.

If pluralism means a process where every voice is heard, confocit is resolved by dialogue and compromise and an atmposphere of tolerance, understanding and respect is nurtured, it does not exists in Ethiopia today.

Democracy in Ethiopia today must not only refelect the vlaues of pluraim, it must also be participatory, transparent and accountable, equitable and based on the rule of law. The public and its representatives must participate effectively in decision-making at the institutional levels.

The government must be accountable to the people, and its administration and governance must be transparent. It must function on the basis of fair rules and procedures applied equitably throughout society minimizing arbitrariness of government actions.

The United States and other countries can help us transition into a democratic society by helping us democratic institutions. There are some who talk about democratic development by merely talking about the ritual of lections that are neither free nor fair.

It is far more important to have a democracy built on free civic institutions that are driven by an independent judiciary, vigorous political parties, uncensored media, free trade unions, universities, civic society organizations and transparent and multiparty electoral commissions.

We are all aware that democratization of Ethiopia will not be accomplished overnight. But we must start the process in earnest now. There are a number of pillars of support for democratization in Ethiopia.

Establishment of An Independent Judiciary

For the past two years, I and my colleagues were on the opposite side of the bench. We were prosecuted for various state crimes including treason, outrage against the constitution, inciting, organizing or leading armed rebellion, obstruction of the exercise of constitutional powers, impairing the defensive power of the state, and attempted genocide. Some of these offense are capital crimes.

Our prosecution occurred in a court system that has little institutional independence and subject to political influence and manipulation. It is a judiciary that is used as a tool of political harassment, intimidation and persecution. Judges are selected not for professionalism or legal knowledge but for their loyalty to the government.

It is universally accepted that an independent and professional judiciary is a key element in the institutionalization of the rule of law, the promotion and protection of human rights and even in implementing social and economic reform in society. The Charter of the United Nations declares the determination “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligation arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained” (Article 1 (3)) and the aim to promote “universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion” (Articles 1 (3), 55 (c)).

The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights(4) provides for an independent judiciary in Article 10: “Everyone is entitled in full equality to a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal, in the determination of his rights and obligations and of any criminal charge against him.” Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, explicitly states that “all persons shall be equal before the courts and tribunals.

In the determination of any criminal charge against him, or of his rights and obligations in a suit at law, everyone shall be entitled to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” There are many other principles that support an independent judiciary.

Ethiopia, of course, accepts these principles and obligations. In fact, judicial independence is guaranteed by Article 78 of the Ethiopian Constitution. Art. 13 of the Ethiopian constitution states: “The fundamental rights and freedoms enumerated in this Chapter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international human rights covenants and conventions ratified by Ethiopia.” And the constitutional “human rights” and “democratic rights” enumerated in Arts. 14 – 43 depend on the vitality and independence of the judiciary for their preservation and protection.

The fact of the matter is that there is no independent judiciary in Ethiopia today; at best there is a court system that is fully dependent on the political authorities for its own institutional existence.

Although judges are supposed to be free of political party politics, many are under the control of the party in power, if not outright members. The judiciary is not perceived as an independent and impartial body accessible by the public to seek justice and protect their legitimate rights.

With the judiciary under the effective control of the executive, as it is today, there is little confidence in its institutional powers or the legitimacy of its rulings; and very little public expectation that the judiciary can be the guarantor of individual rights protected by the constitution or the law. As a result, the Ethiopian judiciary has failed to be the guardian of the Constitution and a protector of human rights.

Judicial reform in Ethiopia must begin with the realization that judges must be insulated from external pressure in their duties and must decide matters before them impartially, on the basis of facts and in accordance with the law, without any restrictions, improper influences, inducements, pressures, threats, direct or indirect, from any quarter or for any reasons. This principle must be accepted by the political authorities as well as the public.

The principal danger to judicial independence comes from parallel institutional forces in the form of executive interference and manipulation and legislative meddling in judicial matters. Impartiality requires that in the discharge of his judicial duty a judge is answerable to the law and his conscience only.

There are various ways judicial independence could be achieved. Institutional and constitutional reforms have to be implemented to ensure the judiciary’s capacity to deal with all matters of a judicial nature.

The judiciary should have the exclusive authority to decide whether a matter submitted to it is under its jurisdiction. The final decisions of the judiciary must not be subject to revision of any the legislative or executive powers.

These proposals for reforms are not anything new. In fact, in Arts. 79-84 of the Constitution, all of them are listed one by one.

The Ethiopian judiciary has serious structural problems. As has been said, “A competent and independent judiciary can make a bad law become a good law, while an incompetent and dependent judiciary can make a good law become a bad one.” In Ethiopia, the judiciary is adversely affected by many factors that undermine its performance.

It lacks adequate funds for proper performance, public confidence in its institutional process, well-qualified and interested lawyers in judicial service, low morale, merit based system for judicial selection. The status and compensation of judges is very low. Little attention was paid to their education and training.

Institutional guarantees are essential in establishing judicial autonomy and independence. This requires political commitments by those in the executive and legislative branches and public awareness and appreciation of the significance of an independent judiciary.

In addition to structural reforms, there must also be judicial accountability that will establish public confidence in the court system and enhance the quality of the judicial services. Such accountability can not occur unless mechanism are in place to monitor the relationships between those on the bench and those in the political branches and the need to fight judicial corruption which is always a looming threat.

If we can not have serious judicial reforms, not only will we be unable to protect the rights of citizens, but we will always live under the rule of the gun instead of the rule of law. 6

The U.S. can help us establish an independent judiciary by providing support to train judges in procedures that meet international standards. Such support could also be used to monitor political interference in the work of the judiciary..

Free Media Institutions
The Committee to Protect Journalists recently ranked Ethiopia at the top of the list of countries where there is little freedom of press. Without a free press, there can be no meaningful democracy.

People in Ethiopia, particularly in the rural areas, do not have access to important political information because of exclusive government control of the media. Political parties need to have equal access to media controlled by the government so that they can effectively communicate with the people.

The U.S. can help by promoting private electronic media and supporting the emergence of newspapers, weeklies and magazines, and other electronic media to help develop a well-informed informed public.

Independent Electoral Commission The lack of impartiality and transparency of the Ethiopian National Electoral Board was one of the factors that complicated the resolution of the dispute in the 2005 elections.

We need an elections board that is representative of all the political parties and enjoys the public trust. People need to have confidence that their votes are counted correctly and there is no elections fraud. The U.S is in the best position to provide technical assistance in establishing an independent electoral commission.

Imrpoving the Human Rights Situation in Ethiopia

Mr. Chairman: You and this committee have worked tirelessly too improve the human rights situation in Ethiopia. The proposals that are currently being deliberated in this House are vital to the revitalization of human rights in Ethiopia, and in many ways reflect the policy postions of the CUDP, and many stated in our 8-point proposals.

We in the CUDP believe that all political prisoners in the country must be released and their democratic rights restored. We support democratic reforms and accountability. We favor protections for human rights and civic society organization and ensure adequate monitoring and reporting processes.

We have argued for an independent judicial system with effective monitoring processes to protect judges from political interference. We are committed to bringing to justice all human rights abusers to justice. We have called for improvements in election procedures to ensure fraud free elections. We support the existence of a free press without censorship and restrictive press laws, and programs that seek to strengthen private media in Ethiopia.

We believe human rights and democratic institutions building go hand in hand. We fully support training programs that enhance democratic participation by the people, and enable political parties to do a better job in organization building and campaign management, lawmakers do a better job of legislative crafting, civil society groups become effective facilitators in the democratic process and professionalization of the National Election Board to help it become fair and balanced. We support limiting the use of U.S. security assistance to peacekeeping and counter-terrorism and not against the civilian population.


Mr. Chairman: I find it somewhat difficult to tell you and this Committee about human rights abuses and remedial actions to improve the human rights condition there.

You have spent over two years studying the human rights situation in Ethiopia. You have come to Ethiopia time and again to take a first hand look, and to talk to political leaders in the government and the opposition, human rights advocates and civic society leaders and ordinary people. You have reviewed the reports and analysis of the numerous international human rights organizations on human rights conditions in Ethiopia.

In my view, there are few individuals or institutions more familiar with the human rights situation in Ethiopia today than the Chair and members of this Committee.

All I can say today is highlight the incontrovertible facts about human rights in Ethiopia. It is well known that the current regime has sought to put up a façade of commitment to human and democratic rights. But its practices contravene al of its obligations under the Ethiopian constitution and the human rights conventions that bind Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian constitution under Art. 14 enumerates all of the “human rights” enjoyed by Ethiopian citizens. Arts. 14-28 enumerate these rights and include basic protections and guarantees of due process. Art. 13, sec. 2 states “The fundamental rights and freedoms enumerated in this Chapter shall be interpreted in a manner consistent with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, international human rights covenants and conventions ratified by Ethiopia.”

In fact, the ruling regime observes neither its won constitution nor the requirements of well-established international human rights conventions. The government established Inquiry Commission I mentioned above has documented the widespread excessive use of force by government security forces.

It has imprisoned hundreds of thousands of innocent people on suspicion of opposition or disloyalty. The human rights violations committed by this government are so numerous in their variety, and nature that it would obviously be too difficult to list them all here. But I wish to cite a few examples documented in the most recent U.S. State Department Human Rights Report for 2006[3].

The report stated that “Although the [Ethiopian] constitution and law prohibit the use of torture and mistreatment, there were numerous credible reports that security officials often beat or mistreated detainees.” Massive arrests and detentions are common, and the Report concluded, “are Although the [Ethiopian] constitution and law prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, the government frequently did not observe these provisions in practice….

Authorities regularly detained persons without warrants and denied access to counsel and family members, particularly in outlying regions… The independent commission of inquiry… found that security officials held over 30,000 civilians incommunicado for up to three months in detention centers located in remote areas… Other estimates placed the number of such detainees at over 50,000.

There is a substantial risk of miscarriage of justic in the judiciary: “While the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary remained weak and overburdened. The judiciary was perceived to be subject to significant political intervention.” Expressive freedoms are severly regulated or punished: “While the [Ethiopian] constitution and law provide for freedom of speech and press, the government restricted these rights in practice. The government continued to harass and prosecute journalists, publishers, and editors for publishing allegedly fabricated information and for other violations of the press law. The government continued to control all broadcast media. Private and government journalists routinely practiced self censorship.”

On a matter that I have intimate knowledge: “The 200 political prisoners on trial in the Addis Ababa federal system were held in two separate prisons, Kaliti and Kerchele, often under harsh conditions. In March CUD Secretary General Muluheh Eyoel was placed in solitary confinement at Kerchele prison. In August fellow CUD member Andualem Arage, along with journalists Sisay Agena and Eskinder Nega, were placed in solitary confinement.” Perhaps the word “harsh” is an understatement. Perhaps better words to describe our condition may have been “dehumanizing”, “atrocious” or “barbarous”.

Th right to assembly and association were vilated just the same: “The [Ethiopian] constitution and law provide for freedom of assembly. Prior to the May 2005 national elections, there were numerous opposition rallies, including one that occurred in Addis Ababa that was attended by nearly one million persons the weekend prior to the elections.

However, immediately following the elections and throughout the year, the government restricted this right in practice. From May 2005 to year’s end, the government granted only one permit allowing a public demonstration to take place… Although the law provides for freedom of association and the right to engage in unrestricted peaceful political activity, the government in practice limited this right. The Ministry of Justice registers and licenses NGOs, and there was some improvement in transparency of the NGO registration process. The government continued to deny registration to the Human Rights League (see section 4).”

Ethiopia has many problems, including a legacy of repression, corruption and mismanagement. It will not be easy for confront the past, We must start at the right point by embracing the rule of law, human rights and democracy. The time is ripe to develop a direct approach to democratization in Ethiopia.

The U.S. can help by using its considerable influence to encourage the government to negotiate with the opposition. Only through dialogue and negotiation will stability and peace be guaranteed, As a long time friend of Ethiopia, I know you will stand by Ethiopia and Ethiopians in the these difficult times.

Thank You Mr. Chairman


Statement by Berhanu Nega at the U.S. Congress
Oct 04, 2007

Statement by Dr Berhanu Nega, Mayor-Elect of Addis Ababa at the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health hearing on Ethiopia

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Chairman Payne, Ranking member Congressman Chris Smith, Distinguished Members of the House Africa Subcommittee, and Committee Staff:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is indeed a great honor and privilege to get the opportunity to appear before you to discuss issues related to the state of Democracy in Ethiopia. Since my colleague Judge Bertukan have spoken on the current state of democracy in Ethiopia in great detail, it would be more fruitful to concentrate my remarks on where we are going as a country in terms of political stability and democratization. I will largly limit my brief presentation to that issue today.

I must, however, first use this opportunity to thank the committee, particularly the chairman and the ranking member for your unflinching support for the causes of liberty and democracy in Ethiopia and for your efforts to secure our release from prison.

Mr. chairman, your personal visit to Kaliti and your words of support when we met in prison was a great source of strength for all of us during our long period of incarceration on what everyone knows are completely fabricated charges that will not deserve a minute’s worth of a judge’s time in any self respecting court.

For most foreign observers of that court’s proceedings, it must have been a text book case of the waste of the human and material resources that condemned developing countries to their perpetual poverty.

For me as an Ethiopian, it was a painful but familiar exercise in the humiliation not only of individual functionaries of the state, but key institutions such as the judiciary, inflicted by the incredible arrogance of dictatorships.

Your visit to Kaliti was a source of strength for us partly because of the different message that it conveyed to us about America’s position towards dictatorships in our continent.

At a time when we were uncertain about US positions based on what we were hearing from the then official representative of the US government, your visit reassured us that this great nation’s commitment to democracy and human rights is still strong. We really thank you for that.

You must also allow me to use this opportunity, Mr. chairman, to thank numerous US citizens that provided us with continuous support by writing to congress on our behalf, by urging the executive branch to reflect their core values of liberty, democracy, and human rights in its dealings with our country, Ethiopia.

When I met congressman Smith in Addis Ababa after the first massacre in June, I told him the story of the continuous open surveillance by security forces that I and other CUD leaders were subjected to beginning immediately after the election. I told him the behavior of the security forces during this surveillance.

I told him about the insult, the occasional spitting on our faces, the wielding of loaded guns and the direct and open threats on our lives. He first thought that this was simply an exaggerated claim by the opposition to tarnish the image of the government of Meles Zenawi. I remember him telling us that this cannot happen. No decent government could do this to a legal opposition.

For him, it was simply unfathomable that a government that claims to be democratic could even think about doing such a thing in the 21st century. I asked him if he wants to see it in his own eyes right there and then by taking a five minutes drive with me. He agreed and he sent one of his aides with me for a few blocks ride. The minute we left the US embassy grounds there they were. Two cars full of plainclothes men, without any fear of being seen but tailgating me wherever I go.

The rudeness of the security guys was quite amazing to my guest in the car. But for me that was the life I lived for six months till I was finally sent to prison in November. I heard later that the congressman, as promised, raised the issue with the Prime Minister and got the usual response. Complete denial. That is the arrogance of dictatorships that we have to live with on a daily basis.

The absence of the rule of law in any meaningful way in our country does not need detailed reporting to this committee. It is a well known fact and amply reported by human rights groups and the State Department, among others.

The human rights abuses practiced in countries such as Ethiopia mainly because of lack of rule of law and democratization is also well documented. But, the effect of such form of government on the economy and on the fight against poverty was an issue that was given short shrift by aid agencies and international development institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF.

A number of scholars (among them the Nobel Laureate Amaratya Sen) have been strongly arguing on the link between freedom and development for a long time, although largely ignored by development practitioners.

As an economist and the president of the Ethiopian Economic Association, I personally have advised policy makers in Ethiopia for the need to open up and democratize society as part of the larger strategy to provide peace, stability and economic development in the country. Indeed, I was pushed to join politics largely to practice what I preached.

I strongly believed then, and I passionately believe now that the only way we could have a stable and prosperous Ethiopia that could be a source of stability in the region and a stable and reliable partner to the international community in the struggle against terrorism and extremism is by democratizing the country and providing basic liberty to its citizens.

Mr. Chairman,

I believe this link between good governance (as defined by the existence of rule of law) and economic development is by now incontrovertible. Even the World Bank is grudgingly acknowledging this issue.

Last weekend’s edition of the Wall Street Journal (September 29-30th, 2007) featured an article titled “The Secrets of Intangible Wealth” by Ronald Bailey based on the recent World Bank Resarch “Where is the Wealth of Nations?” Following is excerpt from the article:

Intangible wealth – The trust among people in a society, an efficient judicial system, clear property rights, and effective government boost the productivity of labor and results in higher total wealth.

The world bank finds, “Human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries.” ….80% of the wealth of rich countries and 60% of the wealth of poor countries is of this intangible type.

Bottom line, “Rich countries are largely rich because of the skills of their populations and the quality of the institutions supporting economic activities.”

According to their regression analysis, the rule of law explains 57% of countries’ intangible capital. Education accounts for 36%. The US scores 91.8 out of 100 on the rule-of-law index and Ethiopia 16.4. 30 wealthy developed countries have an average score of 90, while sub-Saharan Africa’s is a dismal 28.

The World Bank’s path breaking “Where is the Wealth of Nations?” convincingly demonstrates that the “mainsprings of development” are the rule of law and a good school system. The big question that its researchers don’t answer is: How can the people of the developing world rid themselves of the kleptocrats who loot their counties and keep them poor?”

Mr. Chairman,

That is the political question that we must answer if Ethiopia is to be prosperous, stable and at peace with itself. And that is what Ethiopia seriously lacks presently. Since the brutal repression of the democracy movement in 2005, the country is moving further and further away from the path of democracy and prosperity and towards the slippery slope of conflict and tyranny.

The key political challenge we are facing as a country today is whether we are able to choose the right course. Unfortunately, this decision currently and largely rests on the government in power and all indications are that it seems determined to cling on to power by force even if it is plain to anyone with a clear mind that this could only lead to further conflict and instability and economic misery to its largely impoverished population.

More recently, Ethiopia is again in the news concerning the conflict and the horrific human rights abuse perpetrated by the government on its own people in the Ogaden region. Our heart bleeds for those civilian compatriots who are the most recent victims of this ongoing conflict in our country and we condemn this barbarity in the strongest possible terms.

But, I am afraid the Ogaden is but one manifestation of the escalation of conflict in various parts of the country largely owing to the refusal of the government to address the political problems of the country in a peaceful and civilized manner.

Currently, there is some kind of low intensity guerilla warfare in 8 out of the 9 regions of the country. In Oromia and Amhara, the two largest regions of the country, human rights abuses, lack of good governance and democratization has alienated the population so much, it has become an open field for recruiting armed combatants to a variety of causes. Even in Tigray, the region supposedly most favorable for the ruling party is slowly becoming a hot bed of armed opposition to the government.

The broadening armed conflict in the country is fueled by the loss of hope among the population in the government’s ability and willingness to find a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the country’s political impasse. This was made amply clear to the public in the way the government handled the problems related to the 2005 elections and its current belligerent behavior.

What the government’s brutality showed was that any serious attempt at a peaceful opposition or any serious challenge to the powers of the ruling party even through the ballot box will meet stiff resistance from the government.

Unless otherwise something is done soon to reverse this frightening trend, I am afraid our country will further plunge into a more intensified conflict with wider ramifications to the region’s stability and the international community’s wider interest in combating extremism.

Mr. Chairman,

The political problem of Ethiopia is not complicated as some suggest. In my view it is really a very simple problem. The manifestations of the problem could be varied. But the source and essence of the problem is the same. Whether in Addis Ababa, Oromia, Amhara, Ogaden or Tigray, the issue is the same. It is the people’s yearning for democracy. It is the fulfillment of the aspiration of the Ethiopian people to live in freedom and liberty.

It is their natural urge to be ruled by a government they elected. They have amply demonstrated that they deserve such a system in the 2005 elections. All the other issues that are specific to the various regions, important as they are, are simply a variation on the same theme.

If we address these issues of democratization and the rule of law that were clearly written in the constitution of the country in practice, if we do this through a peaceful, negotiated settlement on the mechanics of how to institutionalize it in practice, we would have addressed the greater portion of the country’s development problems.

I really believe the various opposition forces in Ethiopia (both armed and peaceful opposition) are matured enough at this time to work towards this end and settle their political differences through the ballot box if the polls are credible and the institutions that ensure this are in place. What remains is to put enough pressure on the government to see that this is the only future for Ethiopia and that it should be a part of this future. The government must be and can be pressured to see this light and play a constructive role in usuring this new democratic and prosperous Ethiopia.

Mr. Chairman,

Ethiopia has always been a good friend to your country and the relationship between our two countries has a long history. The Ethiopian people have a great admiration to the American people particularly for their hard work, decency and above all their love for liberty.

The Ethiopian people rightly expect Americans to be with them in these difficult times and to support their legitimate struggle for liberty as they deeply believe they are with Americans in their fight against terrorism and extremism.

I deeply believe that the fight against terrorism is a struggle for decency and liberty. The best and durable allies in the fight against terror are those countries and governments that deeply share the values of liberty and democracy.

Dictatorships that have nothing but scorn for liberty in relation to their own people, autocratic regimes that see all alliances as temporary instruments with the sole purpose of maintaining their grip on power, governments that have no qualms about lying and cheating in so far as it proves even temporarily useful to maintain power and states that terrorize their own people, cannot be real allies to a fight against international terrorism.

A good and durable ally for your country is a stable and democratic Ethiopia. As a good friend and ally that provides broad support for the government of Ethiopia, the United States has the potential and certainly the capacity to help us get out of the current political impasse.

We know most of the work to make this a reality is to be done by local political forces. Still, well timed and measured pressure from the international community will certainly help. All that is needed from the US is to work with its other allies to mount a coordinated pressure to force the Ethiopian government to negotiate in good faith with all the opposition political forces for a broad political settlement that leads towards genuine democratization in Ethiopia.

I truly believe, Mr. chairman, that the opposition would play its part for such an effort if the government is serious. But such an effort is time sensitive. It has to happen quickly before the ongoing conflict passes that threshold where peaceful and negotiated settlement becomes too late in the game.

Mr. Chairman, working towards such an outcome is not only the right thing to do but also the smart thing to do. The world community has enough experiences by now to know that doing nothing at the early stages of a crisis could be extremely costly later.

The crisis in Ethiopia is a looming crisis. If we act wisely now, we can avoid a lot of pain later. I hope the United States will play its part to bring about a peaceful and durable solution to the political crisis in Ethiopia. Such an outcome is good for the Ethiopian government, good for the international community and certainly good for Ethiopia.

I know, Mr. Chairman, under your leadership your committee and this house will do its part for the wellbeing of the people of Ethiopia.

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